Performance Project

"On one level, Open City can be located within a tradition of publicly-sited performance practices. This genealogy of politically – and more often playfully – resistant actions, interventions and models of spatial occupation or navigation can be traced back to the ludic practice of Surrealist errance or aimless wandering into and through the Situationists’ deployment of the dérive and conceptualisation of “psychogeography” during the 1950s and 60s. In its focus on collective action and inhabitation of the everyday as a site of practice, Open City is also part of a trajectory of artistic activity – epitomised perhaps by Allan Kaprow’s Happenings – intent on blurring the line between art and life, or in drawing attention to those aspects of reality marginalised by dominant discourses and ideologies. Performed as part of an artistic practice, non-habitual or even habitually discouraged actions such as aimless wandering, standing still, even the (non)event of 'doing nothing' operate as subtle methods through which to protest against increasingly legislated conditions of existence, by proposing alternative modes of behaviour or suggesting flexibility therein. Artistic practice can be seen as a site of investigation for questioning and dismantling the dominant order – or “major” language – through acts of minor rebellion that – whilst predominantly impotent or ineffective – might still remind us that we have some agency and do not always need to wholly and passively acquiesce. Life itself becomes the material for a work of art, and it is through such an encounter that we might be encouraged to conceive other possibilities for life. Through art, life is rendered plastic and capable of being actively shaped or made into something different to how it might habitually be." Emma Cocker

Go to where Andrew Brown publishes documentation of his solo and collaborative walking-related activities, as well as providing information for people who are interested in participating in forthcoming walks.


Map of Nowhere, Grayson Perry

Paris Emotion Map - Christian Nold

Christian Nold
Christian is an artist, designer and educator. In 2001 Christian wrote the well received book ‘Mobile Vulgus’, which examined the history of the political crowd and which set the tone for his research into participatory mapping. Since graduating from the Royal College of Art in 2004, Christian has led a number of large scale participatory projects and worked with a team on diverse academic research projects. In particular his ‘Bio Mapping’ project has received large amounts of international publicity and been staged in 16 different countries and over 1500 people have taken part in workshops and exhibitions. These participatory projects have a strong pedagogical basis and grew out of Christian’s formal university teaching. He is currently based at the Bartlett, University College London.

Oxford Psychogeography Society

Paradise Lost
Sunday 13th September
A psychogeographical tour of the area formerly known as Paradise.
As part of her project Parallel Worlds, artist Katy Beinart and the Oxford Psychogeography Society present a walk around central Oxford, discovering the area once known as Paradise. The walk invites intrepid explorers to abandon their preconceptions, and venture out into both familiar and unfamiliar territories, aided by maps and clues provided by the Society.

The Institute for Infinitely Small Things

The Institute for Infinitely Small Things

Conducts creative, participatory research that aims to temporarily transform public spaces dominated by non-public agendas. Using performance and conversation, we investigate social and political "tiny things".

London Cross, Paul K Lyons

A straight line walk across London

Night Crawl - Stillness, Slowness & Stopping

A week ago I took part in a work commissioned for The Art Crawl in Nottingham by Katie Doubleday and Andrew Brown. I was given a map and instuctions for 'Stillness, Slowness and Stopping: A walk for a group in a city at night'. Kitted out with an ipod shuffle and a clear instruction to turn it on and follow its commands at exactly 7.50pm, I found myself to be part of an artwork. Immaculately timed and choreographed, the recorded directions led me and about 25 other people traverse the streets of Nottingham. The narration was monotone and factual but not unfriendly, yet commanding enough to want to follow through what it was telling you to do. Simple commands began with ‘speed up your pace until you reach Clumber Street…Slowly come to a halt and begin walking again at a normal pace.' Jointly narrated by the artists, a trust was gained to follow their verbal mapping of the city centre. Being part of a group also meant there was safety in numbers and one did not feel singled out or foolish. In fact it soon became a pleasurable experience to feel as though one were part of one physical entity that made its mark on the cityscape. The most poignant instruction to stop coincided expertly with the Council House beginning its chimes. This was when people about the streets of Nottingham began to take notice of the collection of people all stood as still as sleeping automatons, dotted about one of the busiest shopping streets in Europe.

Comments began to filter through the ipod headphones….
“Oooh, what are they doing?”
“What’s it for mate?”
“What are you standing still for?”
“Don’t they look daft?!”
“Whoa, that’s well freaky!”

People, who wouldn’t normally notice your existence or catch your eye in the busy hustle of the city, were now approaching the stationary group of us and waving in our faces, trying to prompt laughter or movement. But not for long, our aural tour guides told us to begin our journey again. At times the pace was fast, sometimes slow, sometimes serendipitously timed to make a graceful crossing over the tramlines. Until we realised we were forming a neat geographical grid in the most public of places in the city, the Market Square. 5 lines of 5 people – evenly spaced, stood still in the at a time when most come on a Friday night to meet their friends and lovers at the left Lion statue before going for a pint or to a club. The clock eerily struck 8pm at almost the exact second when the grid took its intended shape. All eyes were upon us, and it felt like Nottingham’s nightlife were expecting us to put on a good show.

I wondered what we would be instructed to do next, slaves as we now were to the collective hive mind of the ipods – almost like a scene in a science fiction movie – my sense of surrealism kicked in and I wondered if we would turn into a zombie army or be beamed up into the sky to the mother ship. A friend commented after the event that he was worried that we would all be instructed to take part in some sort of choreographed dance like the Youtube favourite of the orange suited prisoners in a Thai jail who had mastered a mass performance of Michael Jackson’s Thriller dance.

This was not the case as we all were instructed to resume our journey in a similar fashion to how we had arrived in this public square in the first instance. A few hundred yards away, we were given our freedom from the collective mind and permitted to walk at our own natural paces back to the starting point. This permitted participants to regain their anonymity and cease being surveilled, or living sculptures, or the followers of an artists work. I for one was enchanted by this interlude where I was able to travel through the familiar city, which I have walked through several times a day for over 20 years, in a new and enlightening way because I was part of a group. Somehow feeling foolish had been averted and all felt a collective amusement and sense of wonder.

Review by Jenny Syson June 2009:

The Communitas of Stillness - Emma Cocker

From Passivity to Potentially: The Communitas of Stilness. An essay by writer Emma Cocker including recent research with Open City on the notion of stillness. Published on peer-reviewed online journal m/c.

"...The practical and theoretical research phase of the Open City project was initiated in 2006 in collaboration with artist/performer Simone Kenyon. During this phase of research Open City worked with teachers of the Alexander Technique deconstructing the mechanics of walking, and observed patterns of group behaviour and ‘everyday’ movements in public spaces. This speculative phase of research was expanded upon through a pilot project where the artists worked with members of the public, inviting them to attempt to get lost in the city, to consider codes of conduct through observation and mimicry, to explore behavioural patterns in the public realm as a form of choreography, and to approach the spaces of the city as an amphitheatre or stage upon which to perform. This culminated in a series of public performances..."

Night Walk: The Art Crawl May 29, 2009

Stillness, Slowness and Stopping – A walk through a City at Night.

A twenty minute walk through the streets of Nottingham at night. As part of The Art Crawl at Tether Studios on May 29th. You will be sent a map and instructions previous to the walk which you will need to read. The walk will begin at Broadway Media Centre where you will be issued with an ipod loaded with instructions. At the signalled time you will press play and you begin to walk. See The Art Crawl Website for information on how to sign up to The Art Crawl.

Places are limited.

Open City Guided Walk: Radiator Festival

Saturday 17 January, 3pm
Venue: Broadway Media Centre, Café Bar
Each participant arrives at the Broadway Media Centre café bar at 3pm with their own MP3 or other player loaded with the open city sound file and a map (
Participants start their recordings at precisely 3.05pm going by the digital clock in the Broadway Cafe Bar. They are then guided through a series of synchronised instructions as they walk through Nottingham City Centre.

Student workshop, November 2008

Working with students from Nottingham Trent University creating moments of group synchronisation at points around Nottingham City Centre.

Drain Mag Publication by Emma Cocker

Images: Open City, 2007 A photo-essay produced by Emma Cocker in response to a collaboration with us over last Autumn is going to be published in the forthcoming issue of Drain magazine focusing on ‘Psychogeography’. The work will be displayed online as a slide show of still images in the Art Projects section of the magazine. A series of postcard instructions and the serialised essay (viewed as postcards in use in the public realm) will provide a critical structure for the photo-essay, which will also include documentation of collective actions undertaken as part of the project.

dis-locate 08 Presentation and Audio Walk

We were awarded an Arts Council England grant for a phase of research to be developed in collaboration with Emma Cocker. As part of this research Emma and myself took a ten day trip to Japan to see the dis-locate festival in Yokohama and participate in the attached Constructing Place symposium. Our research focused on exploring the use of written and spoken text in the work, exploring movement, speed and temporalities in the public realm and exploring the impact of cultural context on the meaning of the work.

Part of the research grant was used to purchase thirty ipod shuffles. The ipods will be used to explore delivering spoken text to an audience at different places around cities and also to deliver instructions that can be carried out individually and as a group. For the dis-locate symposium we delivered a performative presentation in which the audience took a walk through Yokohama responding to a series of instructions on the ipod. The instructions included stopping, standing still, looking up and slowing down. The idea of the walk was to take the particpant through a number of performative modes that gave a specific context to the ideas we had been talking about as part of our presentation.

nottdance07 commission

Activities for nottdance07. October 2007.

A performance lecture by Katie Doubleday, Andrew Brown and Simone Kenyon exploring ideas within the project. As part of the lecture an audience of around 70 were invited to leave the lecture building and stand still for five minutes in the middle of a busy street.

Midlands based performance practitioners took part in a hidden group 'dance' across Nottingham. In the studio practitioners learned a series of habitual gestures and actions which were performed at different points around Nottingham's centre. Following individual routes scored onto a map practitioners followed a choreography embedded within the existing movements of pedestrians using the city that night.

A series of commissioned postcards distributed over the duration of the festival with instructions for participating in moments of group choreography or taking individual detours through a part of the city. The reverse of the cards included a publicly distributed serialised essay text by Emma Cocker.

Publicly distributed essay project by Emma Cocker

A commissioned series of texts on the reverse of postcard instructions distributed publicly across Nottingham as part of nottdance07, October 2007. A further online text at explores the analogy between footnotes and acts of wandering, and provides a critical subtext to the postcards that might remain (without anchor) long after the original texts themselves have disappeared. Text project by Emma Cocker.

Student Workshops | Nottingham

Four hour-long sessions with students on BA(Hons) Fine Art at Nottingham Trent University. Students were invited to take part in directed walks and games that reflected upon performance in the city. Synchronised behaviour was explored in exercises where students performed simple actions such as swaying, falling over, stopping and standing still.


The Art of Taking a Walk – Anke Gleber, early flanerie
Bone, Breath and Gesture – ed Don Hanlon Johnson
Wanderlust – Rebecca Solnit
A history of walking - Rebecca Solnit
Lost – Rebecca Solnit
Misguide to Anywhere -Wrights & Sights
Hunger – Knut Hamsun.
Invisible Cities – Italo Calvino
The Walker’s Companion – Ramblers association
Broke through Britian – Peter Mortimer. One man’s penniless odyssey
The 8 1/2fth wonder of the world – Roger Wakeling.
A walk through Nottingham
Dante and the Lobster (in More Pricks than Kicks) Samuel Beckett. Among several Beckett books that describe walking/journey.
The presentation of self in Everyday life – Erving Goffman
Behaviour in Public Places – Erving Goffman
The Revolution of everyday life – Raoul Vaneigem
Essays on the blurring of art & life – Allan Kaprow (Happenings, invisible art)
In Search of Charm – Mary Young. how ladies should walk!
Imagining the modern city – James Donald
The Ruins of Paris – Jacques Reda
Cities –Lawrence Halprin
Desiring to be led astray - Emma Cocker
The Six Powers – Randall Havas.
An introduction to the mechanics of walking
Also on DVD:
Le Signe du Lion – Eric Rohmer. A hard up american on the Parisian streets

May 2007 Nottingham

A practical and theoretical research phase with artist/performer Simone Kenyon exploring the act of walking and the performance of public space. Research was conducted with peers, friends, students and recruited volunteers. An important part of this research was to open up an alternative space for thinking about and talking through ideas relating to institutional critique. The invited group was intentionally mixed to create an opportunity for practitioners and non practitioners to discuss and test these ideas together. We ran seven, two hour sessions over four days.


1) A group stand still at traffic lights for too long as lights turn from green to red and back to green.

2) A group observe and copy each others ways of walking.

Other instructions - attempt to get lost; consider codes of conduct through observation and mimicry; consider formations and pace of people as choreography; consider public spaces as amphitheatres; stand still somewhere busy until you no longer feel uncomfortable.